Councilwoman Ann Zadeh wants motorists to slow down driving through Fort Worth’s neighborhoods.
So, as city leaders prepare for the upcoming state legislative session in Austin, the District 9 councilwoman is adamant that the city support a proposal to lower the default speed limit on residential streets in Texas from 30 mph to 25 mph.
But if that doesn’t happen during the session that begins in January, Zadeh said she wants the Council to see what it would take to lower Fort Worth’s speed limit on its own. The state sets the default speed limit for Texas roadways. That limit, which applies when no other speed limit is posted, is 30 mph on residential streets.
Legislation that called for lowering that limit statewide never made it out of the Transportation Committee in 2015. The legislation was introduced by former Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston. Fort Worth’s governmental affairs staff said they believe the city of Houston will back a bill in the next session.
Zadeh said motorists speeding through Fort Worth neighborhoods has long been an issue. As the city becomes better-known for its health initiatives, encouraging fitness as well as pedestrian- and bike-friendly programs, Fort Worth should have a lower speed limit, she said.
I try to be a complete street-friendly driver when I am in my car. I drive with my windows down in order to feel my speed and how it is impacting the people around me.
Fort Worth Councilwoman Ann Zadeh
“I try to be a complete street-friendly driver when I am in my car,” Zadeh said. “I drive with my windows down in order to feel my speed and how it is impacting the people around me.”
Some Fort Worth neighborhoods do have 25 mph speed limits, but those have been in place for some time, said Doug Wiersig, Fort Worth’s transportation and public works director.
Zadeh points to studies that show that survivability rates for pedestrians and bicyclists struck by a car rise dramatically when car speed goes down.
In 2011, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released a report stating that “it is well-established that the risk that a pedestrian struck by a vehicle will be injured or killed is related to the impact speed.”
147 Pedestrian fatalities in Fort Worth, 2010-2014, according to the North Central Texas Council of Governments
One way to reduce the number of crashes is to restrict traffic speeds in areas where cars, pedestrians and cyclists share the road, the report said. About one in four pedestrians will not survive being hit by a car going about 30 mph, the report says.
Figures from the North Central Texas Council of Governments show that Fort Worth had 147 pedestrian fatalities and 1,548 bike/car crashes from 2010 to 2014.
Jason Lamers, chairman of the city’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Commission, said the numbers are shocking and called the move to lower the default limit to 25 mph a positive one. But Lamers stressed that motorists need to change behavior as well.
We all need to understand safety needs to be a priority, especially as the city becomes more dense. Bikes and cars can be on the street together.
Jason Lamers, Fort Worth’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Commission chairman
“Education will be key to a lot of that,” Lamers said. “We all need to understand safety needs to be a priority, especially as the city becomes more dense. Bikes and cars can be on the street together.”
Already, some crosswalks in Fort Worth are wider and have bold markings, making them more visible to motorists. And the use of traffic circles to reduce speeds is increasing.
20 mph limits?
Zadeh said she’d really prefer the default limit go down to 20 mph, the same as school-zone speeds. That would be a reduction of 10 mph, assuming motorists are driving the default limit.
“It would be ideal that people go as slow as possible through a neighborhood,” Zadeh said. “I was surprised to find out what the default speed limit was. I don’t know, though, if I can convince everyone that 20 miles per hour is fast enough.”
Fort Worth would not be alone in reducing the speed limit. In September, Seattle lowered its default speed limit on city streets to 20 mph, and in 2014, New York City did the same. Other cities nationwide have talked about it, including Minneapolis-St. Paul.
“Most people I know are on board for this,” Zadeh said. “Nobody wants to lose anybody or lose their own life. It’s all about looking at a roadway not just as a thoroughfare for cars. It’s about sharing the road and we all get there safe.”